Knowledge is important, but personal development is even more critical
It’s a given that in sales you need to know your product and your customers to be successful, but let’s go a little deeper and find out more about what YOU bring to the table. How equipped are you to develop yourself into a solid business professional with the sales skills sets needed to engage with your customers in a very real, authentic and effective way?
Let’s review what skills you need to have developed personally to give your clients and prospects:
Energetically focusing your efforts on meeting a goal, mission or objective takes organization, personal discipline, and more than a little thick skin. When you meet with customers, not everyone will say yes, and you have to stay positive and stay focused on what your overall goal is. Having clear and measurable goals, and understanding how to reach them is key to your success in business and sales.
Enlist a partner – even a client or two – to support you in reaching your goal. It’s ok to mention them in your communications with your customers as long as you aren’t treating it as the only reason for your visit. It may be a good way to enlist their help in finding other referrals to help you reach your goal.
Every encounter you have with a client or prospect is your opportunity to effectively communicate and build rapport. How successfully that encounter goes again begins with YOU. It may sound silly, but you need to practice a little first either on camera or in front of a mirror – to become aware of how you’re acting in front of a prospect. If your body language or demeanor is working against you, it’s time to adjust your behavior.
Overall, sincere, authentic and “real” communication with others sells itself, but it’s not always easy for people to convey. Pretending to be interested won’t work, and you need to continue working on skills that develop your communication – your connection – with others. Your customers require your undivided attention, and it is your job to give them nothing less.
When I was managing large geographic sales areas, planning and organizing were key to my success. Time is not infinite, at least not when you’re counting the hours in a day. Plan your day in a logical and systematic way. You generally have eight, maybe nine hours in each day to meet with customers, so scheduling your time with clients should focus on how many you can efficiently cover within that time.
Again, things happen, and here is where planning and time management is so crucial. If someone cancels, you should have a contingency to meet with a prospect during that open time. When time is limited and you have only so many persons to meet within that time in a given day, your ability to plan will keep your business consistent.
It should go without saying, but anticipating, meeting and exceeding customer needs,
wants and expectations is not only the best way to keep a client, but also to gather referrals from these happy customers. Again, it starts within you to develop a personality of servanthood, which means you don’t come first. Ever.
Practice patience, courtesy (even when your customer complains), diplomacy, empathy and advocacy. Develop a relationship with your customers that places them as a partner rather than a sale.
The minute you stop learning, you stop growing. I know. I’ve been in the place where I thought I could coast. I was in a good place, and it really was my wake up call to never take success for granted, because before I knew it, business wasn’t doing so well any more. Take the initiative in learning and implementing new concepts, technologies and/or methods.
Especially in our age of technology, complacency has no place if you are expecting to stay successful. Keep learning, keep growing, and keep being successful.
At its roots, sales is about convincing others to change the way they think, believe or behave. But let me offer that this should be done in a way that takes knowledge of your clients’ needs, wants and beliefs and allows you to build trust with them. Your knowledge of their needs leads you to become an authority, and it should be your best tool to build on that relationship. Your ability to communicate that is basically persuasion to lead them to a sale, but it should be a tool that is used with integrity and honesty at every step.
Perhaps the most inward-facing tool, your ability to demonstrate initiative, self-confidence, resiliency and a willingness to take responsibility is one that needs the support of a mentor or coach. Customers are more likely to do business with people they like, even if they know they may get a better deal somewhere else, and it’s really a testament to the power of personal effectiveness.
Perhaps I saved the most difficult skill for the last, but it’s one I believe everyone has the ability to develop. I’ve always challenged my clients with the question “Are you for real?” to help them examine their inside game in order to excel at sales. How confident you are and how responsible you are is a personal development journey that most aren’t comfortable with making, but will ultimately give them the greatest results in sales.